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Brian Schottenheimer’s second chance proving to pay off

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NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

I should have trusted my initial instinct to be patient with Brian Schottenheimer, but I didn’t do that. I gave him four regular season games and then I officially turned on him — and Pete Carroll’s decision to hire him — following the Seahawks 20-17 win over the Cardinals:

Seattle went 0-for-10 on third downs, just the fifth time in franchise history that the Seahawks failed to convert a third down. Of course, this was the first time that they had also won one of those games. The previous times were in 1995, 1998, 2000, and 2009, which of course was an iteration of the team that quickly got Jim Mora fired. That game was a 27-3 loss to Arizona and we knew Seattle was a dead team walking.

That was the result against Arizona, which came after three other really bad offensive performances to open the year: five turnovers in the first two games, 13 first downs in Week 1, only 17 first downs in Week 2, very little rushing success despite all the talk about how Seattle would get back to having rushing success, and seemingly Russell Wilson playing the worst ball of his life. I continue...:

I don’t think Carroll can or should take playcalling duties away from Schottenheimer for himself (is he capable of that? I don’t know. Would he be good at that? I don’t think so.) but playcalling should either be taken away from him or he should be forced to do things very differently. Seattle got better in 2012 after stealing some ideas from what Washington was doing with Robert Griffin III, so midseason adjustments are not only possible, they happen literally every year to some teams out there and they can have huge influences on their seasons.

I said the Seahawks either needed to get rid of Schottenheimer or force changes. I didn’t have a ton of people disagreeing with me either:

Well, regardless of the reason for it — either because Schottenheimer was forced to change his plan or this was a part of the plan all along — the Seahawks have been on the right track since Week 3. They did have that offensive nightmare of a week in Arizona, but even when including that, there haven’t been very many better offenses in the NFL over that period of time. Since Week 3, the Seahawks are:

  • First in passer rating (127.2)
  • Sixth in completion percentage (69.9)
  • tNinth in sacks allowed (9)
  • 5th in netYards/pass Attempt (8.0)
  • Second in total rushing yards (805)
  • Second in rushing yards/game (161, which is only one yard behind the LA Rams)
  • First in turnovers (1)

Seattle got D.J. Fluker back in Week 3 and moved J.R. Sweezy over to the left side to replace Ethan Pocic at the same time. They got Doug Baldwin back in Week 4. They were without Chris Carson in Week 4 (Carson had three 100-yard games in his last four appearances). They didn’t make David Moore a part of the offense until Week 4. They got Ed Dickson back in Week 8. Their first round pick has touched the ball 23 times in the last five games.

Schottenheimer’s pre-snap “tells” were telegraphed right here at Field Gulls at the start of this season, but if those tells are still ongoing, they haven’t helped the Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions, or LA Rams from slowing Wilson and the offense down. Maybe the tells are not still ongoing, another thing worthy of inspection from these last few games. In fact, since Week 5, the Seahawks are averaging 173.6 rushing yards per game and have a passer rating of 140.6, which are even better totals than their already-leading totals since Week 3.

Of those three, only the Rams game was at home.

Back in January, I not-so-briefly outlined Schottenheimer’s career history and defended him as a guy who deserved a chance. Not only was he still only 45-years-old with a lifetime of experience, including nine years as an offensive coordinator, but Wilson is by far the best quarterback he’s ever worked with. It would be hard for Schottenheimer to sour the talents of Wilson, and while the first four games were extremely concerning for those of us that thought he might actually be doing that, as we approach midseason Wilson is having the best start to his career. And doing so even though this is the first time Wilson’s been completely restrained as a runner.

A similar chance was once given to another legacy offensive coordinator hire: Kyle Shanahan.

Only 28 when he got his first job as an offensive coordinator, Shanahan spent two years calling plays for the Houston Texans, then four for his dad in Washington, then one for the Cleveland Browns. Finally, he was given the keys to the Falcons offense in 2015 and the results were still underwhelming: 21st in points, 25th in yards per carry, 10th in net yards per pass attempt. But the message that Atlanta kept sending their fans was: please have patience. It’s going to take Matt Ryan time to figure this all out.

In 2016, the Falcons had the best, most efficient offense in the NFL and just like that, Shanahan was the hottest candidate on the coaching market. When it comes to Brian Schottenheimer, we should all keep reminding ourselves that nepotism and criticism constantly followed Kyle Shanahan for years, until it didn’t. Until he was successful. Now, criticism should be surrounding Shanahan again already (although for some reason it isn’t), but people are ready to believe in him.

I defended Schottenheimer. Then I criticized him. Now I’m starting to believe. Why? Because Wilson is a damn good quarterback. He has some really fine receivers. The team has invested more into the offensive line than they ever have under Carroll. Chris Carson is healthy. I believe coordinators are as good as their talent, but as bad as themselves.

A good coordinator should be able to not ruin his offensive talents, whereas a bad coordinator can utterly waste a solid group of players. I am still not sure if Schottenheimer is especially good, but right now he’s looking pretty not bad.